In the News | 2007 November - December
For older press cuttings please follow the links on the top right
As the rows continue, just who is running Ally Pally
Ham and High| 29.11.07
Extra £1m bill for Ally Pally
By Elizabeth Pears | This is local London | 29.11.07
Alexandra Palace is set to cost Haringey taxpayers at least £1 million more than expected after a takeover deal fell through.
The High Court ruling that prevented Firoz Kassam, owner of Firoka Ltd, from taking on a 125-year lease of Alexandra Palace, has left Haringey Council continuing to foot the bill for the running costs of the palace.
The council previously estimated the cost for 2007/8 would only stand at £385,000, with Firoka expected to take over the lease this year.
However, that figure has now risen by £1m as a result of the lease being quashed, and is likely to rise further if a lease is not signed.
Members of Haringey's opposition criticised Labour councillors for failing to adequately guard the public purse at a full council meeting on Monday, at the Civic Centre, in High Road, Wood Green - despite supporting the action brought against the Charities Commission by Save Ally Pally group.
Councillor Neil Williams, Liberal Democrat leader, said: "I raised this issue at a previous cabinet meeting a few weeks ago and was given a figure that has risen dramatically in a short space of time.
"What undertakings are there that this figure will not rise by £2m by the next time we meet?"
Though Alexandra Palace brings some money in from the ice rink, the pub and hosting live events, it does not generate enough revenue to cover the extensive running costs such as staff salaries, electricity bills and repair work.
The landmark building has been in deficit for the past ten years and is a huge financial burden to the council, which picks up the shortfall.
But Councillor George Meehan, leader of the council, said the overspend must be taken in context. "Last year we had to pay about £1.5m to balance the accounts of Alexandra Palace," he said.
"But we expected to sign a lease with Firoka so that amount was reduced to half a million.
"Obviously because of the court case that hasn't happened, so of course this means an extra cost. That will be reviewed at the next meeting of the Alexandra Palace board and we will report back to the council."
The High Court quashed the decision by the Charity Commission to grant the lease to Firoka after it was found that a proper public consultation had not taken place. A second consultation is planned for the new year.
Concern over £1million Ally Pally bill
Hornsey Journal | 28.11.07
CALLS have been made for Haringey Council to explain in detail how it ran up £1million of legal costs fighting the High Court action to prevent Alexandra Palace being leased to Firoz Kassam.
The council was involved as an "interested party" in the legal fight between the Charities Commission and the Save Ally Pally group, which successfully blocked plans to lease the Palace to Mr Kassam's company Firoka for 125 years due to the commission's flawed public consultation.
At last week's council cabinet meeting, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Neil Williams, said: "The amount of money signalled to have been additionally lost as a result of the court case is £1million."
Responding Councillor Charles Adje (Labour), cabinet member for resources, said: "In terms of making sure that we obtain proper legal advice, that's got to be funded."
He added that exact details of how the money was spent were not available but would be requested from the Palace trust.
"I wouldn't want to just roll out and give you a list of things at this meeting until I am clear myself what the money is being spent on," he said.
A second public consultation on plans to lease the building to Mr Kassam is likely to take place in the New Year.
Licence bid proves gamling in back on the Ally Pally agenda
By Clive Carter | Ham and High| 22.11.07
Million squandered in row over palace future
Ham and High| 22.11.07
Lease in limbo after Ally Pally court shock
By Mike Fletcher | Event magazine
The board of trustees of the Alexandra Park and Palace Charity Commission have voted to re-run the process that saw the building’s 125-year lease signed over to the Firoka Group.
The decision follows the board’s shock defeat in the High Court to Jacob O’Callaghan of the Save Ally Pally campaign, who had the lease blocked on 5 October due to a ‘fatally flawed’ public consultation.
The trusteeship has begged Firoka, headed by entrepreneur Firoz Kassam, to remain at the table and commit another six months to resubmitting its £55m redevelopment plans under the guidelines laid down by the courts.
In the interim, Alexandra Palace will continue to operate under licence with Shaun Ormrod acting as general manager and has even attracted a cosmetics trade show and a series of business seminars from the Business Design Centre and Excel London respectively.
O’Callaghan meanwhile is determined to continue his quest to force the ownership of the ailing north London venue to be handed over to a wider body made up of various councils, the GLA, English Heritage, BBC and the Arts Council. He believes Alexandra Palace’s existing exhibition business can fund public benefit activities.
O’Callaghan said: “It is clear the present trusteeship, an impoverished council, cannot continue. They simply have not got the resources or experience to get the best deal for Ally Pally and Londoners.”
Should the development process suffer any further disruption, it is widely believed that Firoka may grow impatient and decide to walk away, leaving the building to its continued demise. Ormrod said: “What O’Callaghan doesn’t realise is that the net achievement of the Save Ally Pally campaign to date is to ensure that the residents of Haringey borough continue to pay for the running costs of the building.” O’Callaghan refutes this and is calling into question the legitimacy of the interim arrangement.
Tycoon continues to coin in Ally Pally cash
Ham and High | 15.11.07
Betting plan for Ally Pally
Hornsey Journal |14.11.07
ALEXANDRA Palace could become a haven for gamblers - despite a casino being ruled out.
The Palace's trading arm, set up to manage events and bring in money to keep the Palace accounts afloat, has applied to Haringey Council for a betting licence for sporting events there, in time for the prestigious World Darts Championship, which begins on December 17.
This will allow punters to bet while at the event itself, in the Palace's Panorama Room.
A spokesman for the Palace trustees dismissed suggestions that the move was an attempt to resurrect a plan for a casino at the Palace - ruled out when the Government handed out all 17 initial casino licences to other towns and cities.
The application to the council says Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd is the only organisation applying for the licence, implying that firm Firoka would have to apply for a similar licence itself if it is successful in bidding for the Palace lease.
The closing date for public representations is December 10.
£55m Ally Pally revamp halted by High Court
leisureproperty.com | 5.11.07
The £55m redevelopment of Alexandra Palace in North London has been blocked by the High Court.
Justice Jeremy Sullivan ruled that there was “a fatal flaw” in the Charity Commission’s Order that authorised an extensive revamp – including the introduction of a 150-room hotel, bars, restaurants and public leisure facilities – which was to be carried out by former Oxford United chair Firoz Kassam’s Firoka Group.
The scheme faced a lot of opposition from the public – notably the Save Ally Pally group, whose lawyers contested that they had not been given any say on the plans to redevelop the 130-year-old building.
The trustees of Alexandra Palace, Haringey Council, have now unanimously agreed to reapply to the Charity Commission to seek an order to grant Kassam a new long-lease to allow him to carry out the work
Alexandra Palace lease negotions remain on 'knife edge'
Haringey Independent | 2.11.07
Adje resigns from Ally Pally Trading Company
By Neeta Dutta |
Haringey Independent | 1.11.07
THE Labour chair of the trading arm for Alexandra Palace has resigned, following mounting accusations from the opposition that his position has lead to a conflict of interest.
Councillor Charles Adje was the chairman of the board of directors of the trading company at the same time as being Haringey Council cabinet member for resources - a role that requires him to handle corporate finance and asset management.
He resigned at a meeting of trustees on Tuesday evening and while the Liberal Democrats welcomed the move, they are now concerned that he not be replaced by another Labour councillor.
The trading company board consists of four councillors, three of which were Labour and one Liberal Democrat. The Lib Dems are suspicious that Labour is trying to stop the appointment of a second Lib Dem board member following the departure of Mr Adje.
They argue that the details surrounding the contract between private company Firoka and the trustees regarding the sale of Alexandra Palace have been kept hidden by Labour. If the board for the trading company asked to see this information then it would have to be provided, the Lib Dems argue and so are pushing to have one of their councillors appointed to the board.
Councillor Bob Hare, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Alexandra Park, said: "It is an absurd situation that according to Labour, the trustees are apparently not entitled to know on what terms Firoka are occupying the building. Any attempts to fix the membership of the Palace trading company will be resisted, as we must have fairness and proportionality. I suspect it is yet another utterly cynical attempt to keep embarrassing information from getting to trustees and to prevent them from doing their job, and it must not be allowed to continue."
Ally Pally – Trustees kept in the dark, say Liberal Democrats
Cllr Matt Davies blog | 1.11.07
I'm aware that I said I was going to blog about the Alexandra Palace debacle that Haringey Labour are presiding over, but haven't got around to doing it yet. In lieu of a proper blog post, here is a press release which went out today:
The Lib Dems have welcomed the resignation of Labour's Finance boss, Cllr Charles Adje, from the Chairmanship of the Ally Pally Trading Company following weeks of pressure from the opposition party – but have condemned attempts by the Labour trustees to pack the body (which has a total of four councillors) with a third Labour councillor, a move that was successfully resisted by the Lib Dems at this week's board meeting.
Charles Adje had attempted to carry on as Chair despite also being the Council's Finance boss - exactly the sort of conflict of interest over Ally Pally for which the Council had been condemned previously by the government's Treasury Solicitor, say Lib Dems.
Following the meeting, Labour has now also agreed to take legal advice over Lib Dem demands that an additional Lib Dem trustee is appointed to the Trading Company board. The matter is vitally important because Pally bosses, in a brazen attempt to keep the affairs of the Palace a secret, have failed to tell the Trustees on what terms the developers, Firoka, are currently occupying the building, given the failure to complete on the lease that has resulted from the recent High court decision and the earlier expiry of Firoka's temporary licence to operate.
While they have failed to provide this information despite months of asking, Lib Dems say this would have to be provided to the Trading Company Board. However, the now-removed Chair of the Trading Company Board has refused recent requests to hold a meeting and, the body is now without a chair, or a fourth board member.
Lib Dems are suspicious that Labour is trying to stop the appointment of a second Lib Dem board member, as this would effectively prevent Labour from blocking a meeting of the body.
Lib Dem Ally Pally spokesperson, Cllr Bob Hare comments:
"It is an absurd situation that according to Labour, the Trustees are apparently not entitled to know on what terms Firoka are occupying the building. Given our duties as Trustees, this just cannot go on. Any attempts to fix the membership of the Palace trading company will be resisted, as we must have fairness and proportionality. I suspect it is yet another utterly cynical attempt to keep embarrassing information from getting to Trustees and to prevent them from doing their job, and it must not be allowed to continue."